Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 14, 1957
NUMBER 40, PAGE 6-7b

"Pattern Or Example"

Luther W. Martin, St. James, Missouri

The above title served also as the heading for an article in the Firm Foundation, December 18, 1956. Some of the material in the article referred to, we can agree with whole-heartedly; unfortunately, part of it lacks much to be desired. Specifically, we refer to the next to the last paragraph of the article which we copy below:

"Again, the Commission says that we are to teach or preach. Any method may be used since God gives no LAW of method. We are not limited by God as to how we teach, but the limitation is WHAT we teach. Just because there were no radios, newspapers or religious journals in the days of the Apostles, does not say that we cannot use these or any other method we choose. Could we presume "a pattern" of method as used in Apostolic times, and try to "bind the pattern" on the teaching and preaching today? If so, we could not use the radio, television, newspaper, church papers, nor any method not used by the Apostles. "Here is the pattern," some would say, "don't violate the pattern!!" Brethren, don't try to force a pattern where no pattern exists."

Reply And Criticism To The Above

In an effort to avoid 'personalities' we are not identifying the author of the above article, inasmuch as our criticism is NOT of the person or the writer, but of his faulty thinking.

First, allow us to submit the definitions of the two words: (1) Pattern, and (2) Example.

PATTERN: "1. A model proposed or prepared for imitation; that which is to be copied or imitated. 2. An example to be followed or imitated; a model; an exemplar." It is used either as a noun or verb.

EXAMPLE: "2. A pattern, in morals or manners, worthy of imitation; a copy or model; one who or that which is proposed or is proper to be imitated. 'I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.' — John xiii.15. 4. An instance serving for illustration of a rule or precept; a particular case or proposition illustrating a general rule, position or truth; as the principles of trigonometry and the rules of grammar are illustrated by examples."

Now, for some uses of the above defined words, in the scripture.

"In all things showing thyself a PATTERN of good works ...." (Titus 2:7.)

God admonished Moses .... "See that thou make all things according to the pattern showed to thee in the mount." (Heb. 8:5.) .... that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a PATTERN to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting." (I Tim. 1:16.)

The word pattern is used quite a number of times in the Old Testament. In each of the above instances, the individual Christian is given a PATTERN, MODEL or EXAMPLE to imitate or copy, in speech and conduct. If our heavenly Father saw fit to provide a PATTERN for the words and actions of individuals, has he completely left out any PATTERN for congregations? Let us see! Paul used the Corinthian church as an EXAMPLE of generously giving for the benefit of those in need, and used that EXAMPLE to induce those of Macedonia to likewise contribute. Paul wrote, "Your zeal hath provoked many," Cor. 9:2.)

Paul, in writing to the church at Rome, stated .. .... that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world." (Rom. 1:18.) In this example, the faithfulness and steadfastness of the congregation at Rome served to encourage others to greater zeal. Again, this is using one group as a PATTERN or EXAMPLE for others.

. . . . as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye." (I Cor. 16:1 and 2.) Although this instruction had to do with each individual finally determining how much he or she should give, nevertheless, it was directed to a congregation, pointing out that they should do as other congregations had been told to do. Thus, it serves as an example or pattern for churches today.

Thus far, we have been presenting a positive or affirmative argument in regard to patterns and examples. We shall now begin to ask some very vital questions of the writer of the article or the editor of the Firm Foundation. As these questions are asked, you will please note that we go from an affirmative to a negative approach to the subject.

Question For The Author Or The Editor

(1) You published: "Any method may be used since God gives no LAW of method." Does this authorize the use of the United Christian Missionary Society? If not, why not?

(2) The dictionary (unabridged) stated that "A pattern was an example to be followed." Do you deny that the example, the pattern, the method used by the churches of New Testament days is TO BE FOLLOWED?

(3) You published: "We are not limited by God as to how we teach, but the limitation is WHAT we teach." Do you, by this broad statement mean to say that ANY METHOD or WAY of spreading the gospel is acceptable to you? If so, may the church where you worship, buy a publishing house and/or a radio station (such as the Catholic Loyola University Station), and by conducting such business enterprises, preach the gospel acceptably, in God's sight? If so, why not accept the Missionary Society?

(4) The apostles taught ORALLY and the apostles taught by the written word. Nor did they go into the `quill and papyrus' business to accomplish it, either. When a congregation places an 'ad' in a newspaper or buys air-time on radio or TV . . . is this not still the WRITTEN AND SPOKEN WORD ... assuming the truth is taught? No 'confederation' of congregations was required ... they worked as individual churches.

(5) By the way, just what publications are referred to, as "church-papers" by the writer? Does 'our brotherhood' now own some papers?

The writer concludes by announcing: There is a great difference in a 'pattern' and in a simple 'example.' Many sin in trying to make a 'pattern' out of an `example'."

Our brother fails to consider that a pattern IS an example, and that an example IS a pattern. They ARE one and the same. He has erected his straw man and tried to demolish him.

The question under study among `us' in this generation is the same as it has been in previous generations. Here it is: "What were the mechanics or methods used in spreading the gospel in New Testament days? Was an organization or amalgamation greater than the local church used? NO! Yet the available MEDIA for spreading the truth were used!

In some cases, the preacher worked for a living. In other instances, he either partially or entirely received support from those to whom he delivered the gospel. Thus, either method has been given for us to follow.

In some instances, a gospel preacher was supported by other churches while he was preaching to a group that was unable to support him. In such instances, these other churches sent their assistance to him. On other occasions, a group of brethren in want of material blessings, were helped by the contributions of material assistance. In each case, however, there was no 'sponsoring church' or some 'missionary or benevolent society' established in order to accomplish the task.

In our 20th century, a church can spread the gospel and use the available MEDIA ... AS THE AVAILABLE MEDIA WERE USED in the 1st century. The church does not need to go into BUSINESS in order to preach the gospel today. The church has the model, pattern and example of the New Testament church . . . . WHAT MORE DO WE NEED?